Earlier this summer, a federal judge told Ed O'Bannon and his fellow plaintiffs in an anti-trust case against the NCAA and the Collegiate Licensing Company (all former college athletes) they needed to add some current players to their lawsuit. Thursday night, O' Bannon's lead attorney announced they had found six willing football student-athletes.
Linebacker Jake Fischer and kicker Jake Smith from Arizona, Vanderbilt linebacker Chase Garnham, Clemson cornerback Darius Robinson and tight end Moses Alipate and wide receiver Victor Keise of Minnesota have all joined the billion-dollar lawsuit over the use of athlete likenesses without compensation.
''These athletes are incredibly brave. They are well-aware of the risks of standing up to the NCAA, and yet they felt that this was the right thing to do,'' Michael Hausfeld, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement.
Fishcher, Garnham and Robinson are the headliners here. Fischer, the Arizona linebacker, had 119 tackles last season and was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention. Garnham collected 84 tackles and a team-leading 7 sacks for Vanderbilt in 2012. Robinson started the first half of the 2012 season, but sat out the remainder following an ankle injury.
This move came after the NCAA decided to sever ties with EA Sports, removing their name and logo from the popular "NCAA Football" video game series. EA says it will continue to make the game and work with the CLC, the company that actually licenses the rights to specific colleges, conferences, bowls and the Heisman trophy. Next year's release will simply be called "College Football 2015," and the fact both CLC and EA deem it wise to continue production means they are both discounting future liability from the O'Bannon lawsuits or similar cases against them.
Earlier this month the NCAA wrote a letter promising it would not retaliate against any current athletes who joined the suit. I'm already imagining the reaction if any of the defenders on this list get booted from a game with the new targeting rules, which allow officials to eject players they feel are aiming above the head on a defenseless player. Can you imagine the fallout if Fischer gets booted from a big, primetime game against USC on a 50/50 targeting penalty? Or if Robinson is immediately tossed from Clemson's opener with Georgia for cracking a wide receiver? Conspiracy theories will abound.
Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples talked to Robinson about why he joined the suit:
"That's me all the way," Robinson said in an interview Thursday night after attorneys filed an amended complaint to the case, which is being tried in federal court in the Northern District of California. It's Robinson all right -- for better and for worse. "It's as close as it gets," he said. "Size, ratings. I don't have the best hands as a corner, so I always drop interceptions on the video game." And does he occasionally drop interceptions in real life? "Sometimes," Robinson said with a laugh. "I'm not going to lie."(There is one slight difference. Robinson, who wore No. 21 for three years, recently switched to No. 8. His Twitter handle remains @21FearGod.)
What's next in the suit? We wait for Judge Claudia Wilken to decide what kind of class certification the plaintiffs receive. She could do anything from refusing to certify any class at all (now every athlete and former athlete would have to file their own suit) to bringing in every single current and former athlete whose likeness was used in a game to this one case. We said earlier this summer that Wilkens was the new power player in college sports for good reason, as the future of NCAA student-athlete compensation could be in her hands.
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